Najwa Bin Laden, Osama's first wife, said the favorite part of her day was "the sleeping time." And it wasn't because her days were so miserable; it was because bedtime was when she had her husband all to herself.
"This is a talented woman with a lot of promise who wasn't able to sit in a garden without upsetting her husband," says Jean Sasson, the co-author of Growing Up Bin Laden. Sasson was explaining to the Times Magazine's Andrew Goldman why she thought Najwa cooperated with the book, which her son (at left, with his wife) initiated. "I really believe she only did it because her son asked her to. And I got the feeling that once she started the process, she enjoyed talking about her life," Sasson said.
The Syrian-born Najwa, bin Laden's first cousin, bore him eleven children. This was a love marriage, according to accounts, and it appears the conception of those eleven children wasn't a burden for Najwa:
Najwa seems so modest that I can't imagine you broached her sex life with Osama.
I wouldn't ask that of any Arab woman. But when I asked Najwa what her favorite time of day was, she admitted that it was ‘‘the sleeping time.''
When I read that I assumed she meant that the rest of her life was so bleak she took pleasure only in sleep.
No, that's when he was giving her all his attention. Omar said that when he was a child, Osama would come home from Afghanistan and take Najwa into the bedroom and they wouldn't come out for days.
In the b-sides from the interview, put on the Times magazine's blog, Goldman asks about how the older wives felt about Amal al-Sadah, the youngest wife that was in bin Laden's compound when he died, and who apparently rushed the commandoes. Najwa, Sasson said, would "tell me about the other wives' personalities, but if I ever mentioned the Yemeni wife she'd completely shut down. That wife was 15 when he married her. Najwa had children older than that. When Osama talked to Najwa to convince her into accepting a second wife, he told her it was for Islam and she was accepting. But then when Osama marries someone so young suddenly maybe you will realize maybe it's because he just wants a young wife."
Though being married to the world's most wanted terrorist isn't exactly a typical marriage, in Islam or otherwise, but even this slice of things indicates a nuance that gets lost in these discussions; these women, for better or worse, aren't necessarily passive dupes, cheerleaders, or unwilling participants.